Eco-Healthy Childcare

Mixed-Age Group Education

Multi-age education is not a new concept. In fact, it’s the way children learned hundreds of years ago. Today, the multi-age grouping model has sparked an interest among early childhood educators.

When our culture was agrarian, children learned in small one or two room schoolhouses with children of various ages from their community. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s, when nations became industrialized, did education turn to grouping children chronologically. Families and children left the rural life of farms and moved to the factory life of over-crowded cities.This lifestyle brought children of the same ages together leading the way to the graded classrooms of today.

Whether it’s an elementary classroom, preschool, or child care center, graded classrooms teach on the assumption that all children should learn the same concepts at the same time and at the same rate. This can lead to frustration for the child and teacher alike. The realization that childrens’ uneven developmental patterns and differing rates of progress are ill-matched to the rigid grade-level system has left teachers searching for a better way to meet the needs of all students. More and more schools areimplementing multiage programs because of the current educational practicesembedded in the multiage model that address these issues.[1]

Benefits of multi-age grouping programs:

  • Mixed-age grouping resembles family and neighborhood grouping, which throughout human history have informally provided much of children’s socialization and education. Many young children now spend relatively little time in either family or neighborhood settings and consequently are deprived of this kind of learning.
  • Social development can be enhanced by experiences available in a mixed-age grouping.Leadership and prosocial behaviors have been observed to increase.
  • Current concepts of cognitive development imply that children whose knowledge or abilities are similar but not identical stimulate each other’s thinking and cognitive growth.
  • Research on peer tutoring and cooperative learning indicates that interaction between less able and more able children, e.g., “novices and experts,” benefits all individuals both academically and socially.
  • Mixed-age grouping relaxes the rigid, lock-step curriculum with its age-graded expectations of children[2].

In conclusion, multi- age classrooms promote positive social behaviors in a relaxed learning environment where children learn and develop at their own pace.

[1] North Central Regional Educational Library. Critical Issue: Enhancing Learning ThroughMultiage. http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/instrctn/in500.htm>. 08/29/11.

[2] Katz, Lilian G. The Case for Mixed-Age Grouping in Early Childhood Education Programs. <http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED308991.pdf> 8/29/11.

Less is more

Less talking more observing
Less clutter more minimalistic
Less intervening more focus
Less teacher initiated, more child initiated
Less praise, more encouragement
Less interruption, more concentration
It has been my observation over the years that children who have too many things have a harder time playing peacefully and learning to share than children who have less.

— Hammond, Ruth Anne. Respecting Babies: a New Look to Magda Gerber’s Approach. Zero to Three.
Washington, DC. 2009